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Economists refer to unregistered property as ‘dead capital’ because without a formal document, the occupant is not an owner. Jack Dangermond, founder and president at ESRI, argues that secure land rights is the surest path to ending global poverty.

Having a title, deed, or lease and an address is the key that turns informal occupants into citizens, who can enroll children in school, register to vote, or open a bank account. And yet, 70 percent of the world’s people live in homes and on land without documented rights.

Without secure land rights, people live in fear of dispossession and eviction. In urban slums around the world, residents are at risk of losing their shelter and belongings at any moment. In agricultural areas, farmers worry about surrendering their crops and livelihoods. This tenuous existence offers little hope and few footholds for families to climb out of poverty.

In an article published on Reuters, the ESRI president says that ‘’given the positive societal impacts of secure land rights, I believe that finding solutions to quickly document land ownership and strengthen land rights record keeping is one of the top ten development priorities for the world.’’

With land rights recorded, land becomes a means for individuals to secure credit (a mortgage) and acts as the foundation for an entire country’s economy. In countries where people hold title, the sum value of real estate often eclipses the annual production of goods and services.

Land rights are also tightly bound to many development issues, such as the social inclusion of indigenous people and the protection of women’s rights. In fact, 13 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals directly relate to land, the article continues.

Land makes for the largest tangible asset for most families, therefore making it easy to pass on to the next generation by secure land rights increases household income, food security at the individual and family level.

Secure land rights protect communities from exploitation, help grow strong markets that generate income and create jobs in poor communities and provide equity that motivates residents to invest in the livability of their community. In developing economies, secure land rights also provide the gateway to participation in the global economy.

A recent study found that Only 61% of Kenyans feel their property rights are secure.

Jack Dangermond is the founder and president of Esri, a global leader in geographic information system (GIS) software.